The Witch Must Burn Page 12

It took me a while to find the vegetable garden, which was more or less hidden behind a low, pink brick wall, and which bore little resemblance to the rest of the landscaping. The plants here had a distinctly practical feel: unlike the rest of the gardens, which were beautiful but obviously designed to cater to Glinda’s unnatural passion for pink, these more humble rows of vegetables and herbs were comforting in their hominess.

I’d been so young when my parents died that I had no memory of them. All I knew was what Ozma had told me: that I’d been born in a small village in the Oz countryside, to people who were too humble to leave me anything other than my name. Ozma had taken me in because I had no other family and nowhere else to go.

Wandering the rows of the vegetable garden, I wondered if my own parents had grown food like this; if maybe they’d sat down every night to a dinner of crisp green lettuce and ruby-red tomatoes pulled from the earth just moments earlier. I rarely thought about my parents—what good did it do me to wonder?—but for a moment in Glinda’s garden I stopped to consider what my life might have been like if they hadn’t died. Maybe I’d be out in the countryside somewhere, lying in a field napping underneath the warm sun, or reading a book. Maybe my life would be my own, not Dorothy’s. But thinking like that was useless, and bound to get me nowhere. There was no point in crying about it. My life was what it was. There was no way I’d ever get away from Glinda, or Dorothy, or whatever they had in store for Oz.

I was lucky to even have a job; since Dorothy came back, there were rumors of Munchkins going hungry for the first time in Oz’s history. The winged monkeys were little more than zombies these days, only too eager to obey whatever the Tin Woodman ordered them to do—even if it meant harassing innocent citizens. Some of the servants at the palace talked about friends and relatives who were out of work—something that had never happened before in our history. It was like Dorothy had brought some terrible disease with her from the Other Place, one you couldn’t see.

I shook my head, trying to rid myself of such dark thoughts. There was nothing I could do to solve Oz’s problems from Glinda’s garden. And it was such a relief to be outside, alone, with the sun on my shoulders and the trilling of birdsong in my ears. As Dorothy’s head maid, I’d had little time to myself in the Emerald City, and I’d imagined that Glinda would be watching me like a hawk out here. But Nox had given me the gift of a morning out from under her scrutiny, and I was determined not to let a second of it go to waste.

When I had filled my basket to Nox’s specifications I went out of the vegetable garden back into the flower garden. Despite the overwhelming influence of Glinda’s dubious taste, it was still a beautiful place on a sunny morning. I sat with my back against one of the fruit trees and closed my eyes. It wouldn’t do to fall asleep out here, but surely no one would notice if I took a moment to rest before I went back inside to face whatever Glinda had in store for me next.

Suddenly, the sinister, dulcet tones of Glinda’s voice cut through the serene air, and I froze in terror. “Of course, we’re so delighted to see you,” she trilled.

How had she found me out here? Had Nox sent her after me? Why hadn’t she just used the bird pin megaphone? I flung myself up against the nearest tree, my heart pounding, as she continued.

“We have so much to discuss, my dear friend . . .” I craned my neck around the tree, desperately hoping she couldn’t see. She obviously wasn’t talking to me, and I didn’t recognize the little man at her side. But in an instant, I knew exactly who he was.

The Wizard, I thought.


Glinda strolled casually through her pink pom-pom of a garden, the Wizard by her side. He was dressed snappily in a brocade suit with a top hat, and he carried a silver-tipped cane that he swung as he walked. Though they were a ways away, and thankfully the tree hid me from their view, I could hear most of what she was saying. “. . . and of course I’m certain Dorothy and I would be only too happy to work with you to clarify a vision of Oz’s future, if only we knew something more about your intentions. I know things ended on a . . . difficult note during your last visit to the palace, but there’s no reason to continue what I know was simply a terrible misunderstanding. Dorothy is just torn up about it. As, of course, am I.”

Glinda’s voice was so sweet it was practically dripping syrup, but even from where I was sitting I could hear the steely resolve underneath her words. The Wizard made a noncommittal noise and Glinda tried again. “I mean, you haven’t even told us how long you plan to be in Oz!” she cooed, adding a giggle for effect that sounded more sinister than flirtatious.

What on earth was the Wizard doing here—and what could he possibly want with Glinda and Dorothy? I quickly refocused my attention as his words carried across the garden.

“I’m sure we’ll have plenty to discuss,” he was saying. “But as you know, the well-being of Oz is of utmost importance to me. It remains to be seen whether Dorothy is the leader we need in this difficult time.”

“Certainly she’s young,” Glinda interrupted smoothly, “but she was clever enough to defeat you, Wizard, with all due respect. And please, you can’t imagine she’s to be the true leader of Oz. That role has always fallen to those with real power. She’s simply a heroine of the people. They cherish her. They’re only too happy to obey her every command. But make no mistake, my dear friend, those commands come from me.”

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